The 18 greatest songs of the Nineties, as selected by singer and radio DJ Lauren Laverne

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Mixtapes were a way of telling someone you liked – and wanted to impress – them. BBC Radio 6 Music DJ and former Kenickie singer Lauren Laverne has created one just for you… 

The mid-90s: bliss it was to be alive, but to make music it was very heaven.

The pop single was the dominant unit of cultural currency and the music industry was in rude health. Dance and hip-hop were dominating charts and influencing what we used to call “indie” music. 

As we hurtled towards the end of the 20th century there was a sense of optimism and possibility in the air. Musicians were looking to the future, but also cherry-picking from the preceding decades’ pop culture and weaving it into their records in samples, sleevenotes and ironic T-shirts worn three sizes too small.

Here’s some music that might have wafted out of a radio back then. Women artists were writing songs to live, love and dance to, full of life, sex and politics. I hope you like it. 

Lauren’s playlist

The lowdown on Laverne’s favourite mid-90s, female-fronted tracks

Lauren with the rest of Kenickie, 1997

Hole Doll Parts 

This 1994 track was written by Courtney Love about her feelings for Kurt Cobain.

PJ Harvey Down By The Water

This breakthrough song by the experimental singer-songwriter tells the story of a woman drowning her daughter. 

Saint Etienne Hug My Soul

Sarah Cracknell’s dreamy vocals were integral to Saint Etienne’s infusion of dance, pop and uplifting indie.

Cibo Matto Sugar Water

Indie pop with an edge, courtesy of Japanese artists Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori.

Luscious Jackson Strongman

The all-female American alt-rockers were featured on the soundtracks to Clueless and Good Will Hunting.

 TLC Creep

With tracks like Creep and Waterfalls, it’s no wonder TLC’s CrazySexyCool album sold over 14 million copies. 

Queen Latifah U.N.I.T.Y.

Latifah was at the vanguard of female rappers as she told women to stand up against disrespect.

Salt-N-Pepa None Of Your Business

Salt-N-Pepa took on the idea of slut-shaming with tracks like None Of Your Business.

The Breeders Divine Hammer

Kim Deal formed The Breeders when she was dissatisfied with life as a bassist in the Pixies.

Bikini Kill Rebel Girl

Hardcore indie rockers Bikini Kill were a key part of the feminist Riot Grrrl movement.

Huggy Bear Her Jazz

Huggy Bear actively resisted mainstream recognition to focus on their art punk sound.

Voodoo Queens Supermodel Superficial

An all-female British Asian indie punk band, Voodoo Queens broke boundaries.

Bis Kandy Pop

Mix addictive pop with indie guitar and you have Scottish band Bis. All together now, “Sugar sugar kandy pop.” 

Shampoo Trouble

Trouble was a worldwide hit for the briefly-massive bubblegum pop act.

Lush Single Girl

The London shoegazers’ album Lovelife featured Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker.

Sleeper Inbetweener

Led by Louise Wener, now an author, the video had a cameo from Supermarket Sweep’s Dale Winton.

Elastica Stutter

Elastica’s black leather-clad Justine Frischmann was the ultimate cool frontwoman.

Kenickie In Your Car

Fronted by none other than Lauren Laverne. They looked good, sounded great and finished their last gig with, “We were Kenickie, a bunch of fuckwits.” 

Caitlin says:

“Lauren makes the best mixtapes. So, as one quarter of Kenickie, I asked her to make a 90s one specially.”     

Lauren Laverne presents BBC Radio 6 Music’s Breakfast Show, 7.30am-10.30am Monday-Friday, and Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs 

Images: Getty, Rex features

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